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Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

It’s Not Really Fan Art When You’re a Professional

12.10.12
by Daniel Abraham

I present the fine work of concept designer & illustrator Jeff Zugale of www.jeffzugale.com

First the SMBC panel.  Now this.  I’ll tell you, it’s been a good week.

 

10 Comments

A Brief Aside For Science

12.08.12
by Daniel Abraham

So I read this morning about folks who are taking what seems to me the only sane path toward strong AI:  making something that does what brains do, and seeing what happens.

I have a few reactions to this on the general subject of neuroscience and cognitive theories.  The first is Woo hoo!  I love science.  I love the systematic discovery of how the universe works and what it does, and especially the counterintuitive parts where it turns out nothing is actually quite the way we thought.  Love that.  I suspect we’re going to find that brains are big pattern matching structures (or at least neocortexes) are mostly great big pattern matching-with-feedback mechanisms with no central processing unit, and consciousness is going to stay weird and inexplicable.  We don’t have a rigorous model by which matter and energy can exercise will, and we’ve got a lot of examples of matter and energy coming together to exercise will.  We call them people.  Or sometimes dogs.  The present models can’t account for that, and that’s cool.  We’ll build a better model later, when we know more. That’s called science. If our present model accounted for everything, we’d be done.

Second, I am wildly tired of the “Oh my god, subject X did something new and it CHANGED WHAT HAPPENED IN THEIR BRAIN!” I’ve seen a lot of this recently.  Just as a head’s up, that’s the expected value, folks.  If you do something new, it changes what happens in your brain.  Learn how to play piano?  Changes your brain.  Someone gets clocked by a bowling ball and their memory starts getting bad?  The fMRI is going to show less activity in the hippocampus.  That’s two ways of saying the same thing.  If you get a study that shows someone doing something new and their brain staying exactly the same, then I’m interested.

Third, I know that “Oh, the machine became conscious” thing is done to death.  Cliche.  Boring.  Even when it’s been done really well (and I’m looking at you, Galatea 2.2) it’s the execution of the story that makes it stand out not the idea.  But one of the things we know — maybe the only thing we know for certain — is that matter is capable of displaying consciousness.  Some configurations of matter and energy are able to experience pain, love, wonder, and the determination to by god lose a few pounds next year.  Yes, at some point we may be able to replicate that.  But the chances seem slim to me that whatever machine we build will have any deeper insight into the nature of the universe than we do.  I imagine the first AI strong enough to contemplate the philosophical questions of the universe, lifting its shoulders and saying “Wow.  Weird.”

Fourth and final, Ted Chiang has a few essays in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that should be required reading for anyone doing hard SF.  Ted remains the best science fiction author.

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The Coolest James SA Corey Thing Ever

12.06.12
by Daniel Abraham

Zach Weiner, one-man god of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, on me and Ty:

How true, how true….

7 Comments

New Clarkesworld Article Up

12.01.12
by Daniel Abraham

Take a look.

1 Comment

The Long Price Quartet in Paperback (At Last)

11.28.12
by Daniel Abraham

Well, today’s the day.

To those of you who’ve followed my long and storied career may remember that a few years back, I suffered something of a setback. My first series of books was a four book story called the Long Price Quartet.  The sales were decent.  I earned out my contract.  And the reviews were great.

The Price of War: Volumes 3 & 4 of the Long Price Quartet

“I listed these among the best books of the last decade in the poll, and I really think they are. I recommend them very highly.” — Hugo winning author and generally admirable person Jo Walton on Tor.com.

“As time has helped these novels grow in the modern genre canon, it turns out the story Daniel Abraham wanted to tell in The Long Price Quartet is something readers are wanting to read. Though firmly entrenched in the fantasy genre, Abraham’s story didn’t quite take the ball and run with expectations. Rather, he shunned expectations told a rich and rewarding story despite that.” — your friends and mine at sffworld.com

“Besides, I’m looking at the series as a whole now, and I think it is a monumental achievement. Abraham has produced four fine books, each of which works well on its own, but which in sequence add up to something much more. He has crafted gripping plots, and a group of fascinating characters whom we grow to know and care for, if perhaps not identify with because in Abraham’s world no one is a fantasy archetype. Then, after four books, you finally get to the end, emotionally drained once more by what Abraham has put you through. You close The Price of Spring, and there, at the top of the blurbs on the back cover, you find this:

‘Will keep you turning pages and break your heart in the bargain’ — George R.R. Martin

Nothing more needs to be said.” — the inimitable Cheryl Morgan

But one thing led to another led to nothing very good, and not only did Tor decide not to pick up The Dagger and the Coin series or the Expanse books, they also chose not to put the last book, The Price of Spring, out in paperback.  And so, Price of Spring — the concluding book in a project that I spent a good solid half decade working on and of which I am really quite proud — has only been available in print as a difficult to track and expensive hardback.  Until now.

Tor has re-released the series in two omnibus editions.  The first, Shadow and Betrayal, came out earlier this year.  The second, The Price of War, is out today.  It is the first time that Price of Spring has been in paperback, and that the full quartet can be had in matching editions.

One of the unfortunate facts of modern publishing is that print editions have a shelf life.  I don’t know how long the Quartet will be in the stores, but the chances are good that once these editions fall out of print, they won’t come back in for a nice long time.  Ebooks’ll be there as long as there’s a seller, of course.

So if you were wanting a copy for your collection, or have someone who wants a completed fantasy for the midwinter solstice celebration of your choice, or just wanted to see what happens when I actually get to write a great big story from start to finish, here’s your chance.

Shadow and Betrayal ( Amazon | BN | Indiebound )

Price of War ( Amazon | BN  | Indiebound )

9 Comments

Jimmy Corey and My Face on a Tube

11.08.12
by Daniel Abraham

So there are a few ways to track me and Ty on the various social media sites.  I’m on Facebook under my own name (http://www.facebook.com/profoundsigh) and Twitter (@AbrahamHanover).  Ty’s on Google+ (https://plus.google.com/109283350355217542476/posts).

BUT

Your friends and mine at Orbit have put up a professional site over on Facebook just for James SA Corey.   It’s at https://www.facebook.com/JamesSACorey and they’re looking at putting some cool James SA Corey related stuff up there.  Exclusive excerpts, cover art, possibly even the very exclusive James SA Corey SMBC comic (yes, that exists).

If you’re looking for ways (besides hanging out here) to keep track of all things James SA Corey, go take a look, like it, and we’ll see how the experiment works.

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The Good Winners

11.07.12
by Daniel Abraham

We aren’t a culture that knows how to win well.  It’s not just something we see in the aftermath of a fight or an election, though that’s what started me thinking about it today.  The narrative of conflict we have stops too early.  There is a great battle and then someone wins, and then it’s over: the narrative of redemptive violence.

It seems to me that there’s another step, and that when you leave out reconciliation and reintegration, you wind up perpetuating a fight that should be over.  Tolkien understood that.  Even when his heroes won their fight, there was the struggle after the struggle.  Psychologists and psychiatrists who deal with soldiers returning from war understand the profound difficulty of moving from being in conflict to being in peacetime.  And when we skip that part, I think we don’t actually experience the release and calm that an actual end to conflict should give.  And so instead, we try being violent a little more.  Rubbing it in, keeping the conflict going in — it seems to me — a vain hope of squeezing that catharsis out of it.

Winning well also feel a little like losing because it means stepping back from the battle, letting go of the excitement and rage, and trying to acknowledge the humanity of the person or people you were demonizing just a little while ago.  The uncomfortable truth is that there’s a comfort in demonizing our enemies.  It makes things simple and permits a kind of anger that’s very simple, very comfortable, and almost always inaccurate.

I’m a liberal, and considerably left of President Obama on many, many issues.  But I have conservative friends and family who I’m sure are feeling anxious and despairing today.  I just wanted to take a moment to say that I know how you feel, and while I still disagree with all y’all on some issues basic enough to approach axiomatic, I’m sorry this part’s hard.  If my guy had lost, I’d be pretty damned down today myself.

I know from experience that there are more interesting and more profound conversations about this that we can have now that we’re not in a fight, provided we can let go of being in a fight.  I know that we’re in a media environment that deals with nuance and depth poorly, and that people are nuanced and we’re deep.  And I know that violence, even rhetorical violence, redeems nothing.

If any of y’all want a cup of coffee and sympathy, your loyal opposition is here for you. I’m happy to listen to whatever you have to say (short of violence and trolling).  I won’t agree with all of it, and I’ll call you on some of it, but I recognize that you are also citizens of my nation and of my world.  I’d rather our conflicts go through all the way to the end, where — win or lose or resting to go at it again later — we are capable of being reconciled.

13 Comments

Goodreads

10.30.12
by Ty Franck

Still likes us, apparently.

Caliban’s War is up for a best of 2012 in the Science Fiction category.  Thanks to everyone who’s put us on their reading list on Goodreads.  We are humbled.

Also, some fantasy book called King’s Blood made the best of Fantasy list.

8 Comments

Tyrant’s Law Cover Art and Copy

10.23.12
by Daniel Abraham

It’s not quite the final version, but it’s close enough.  Behold what the fine folks at Orbit have wrought.

The great war cannot be stopped. 

The tyrant Geder Palliako begins a conquest aimed at bringing peace to the world, though his resources are stretched too thin. When things go poorly, he finds a convenient target among the thirteen races and sparks a genocide. 

Clara Kalliam, freed by having fallen from grace, remakes herself as a “loyal traitor” and starts building an underground resistance movement that seeks to undermine Geder through those closest to him. 

Cithrin bel Sarcour is apprenticing in a city that’s taken over by Antea, and uses her status as Geder’s one-time lover to cover up an underground railroad smuggling refugees to safety. 

And Marcus Wester and Master Kit race against time and Geder Palliako’s soldiers in an attempt to awaken a force that could change the fate of the world.

Continue reading ›

25 Comments

Two bits of news and an irony (in the Alanis Morrisette I-don’t-think-that’s-what-the-word-means way)

10.16.12
by Daniel Abraham

First big news:  Check this out.

Book Three of The Expanse and the covers still rock

Continue reading ›

11 Comments